While empathy has not overtaken sympathy yet in google search trends, empathy is on the rise. Apathy is holding steady – it doesn’t care about sympathy, though sympathy cares about empathy.
This RSAnimate video explains why more empathy will make the world a better place:
I’ve summarized the talk in screen shots:
Empathy is about creating the human bonds that make life worth living.
Empathy (replacing sympathy) brings about a revolution in human relationships.
Empathy is a mirroring of human emotions.
Or empathy is about stepping into someone else’s world.
Social policy change requires us not just to empathize with the “down and out” classes of society, but more importantly, to empathize with the rich and powerful who run the world. Only if we understand how they see the world, what their career aspirations and ambitions are, and how they rationalize leadership decisions against their internal value systems, can we affect them on a personal level. This mode of analysis is precisely how one could have predicted why Obama would not concede on the “preexisting condition” clause in Obama care. It also explains why he will support a Keynesian style multiplier-effect economic stimulus but not care so much about the rising disparity between rich and poor. Both decisions map to his own view of power and wealth in different ways. The “preexisting condition” affected his own Grandmother, but the rich-poor disparity is just a vague trend that individuals within the class (like himself) have managed to thwart through their own toil and hard work (which is Ben Franklin’s philosophy on how society prospers).
He proposes an empathy museum where you can borrow a person to talk with, or a sweat shop where you can work a day for $1.
And in fact the “hello peace” hotline in Irsael-Palestine has already connected a million strangers together to facilitate dialogue. This idea is a rich area for exploration.
History is the story of the rise and fall of empathy on a mass-population scale.
My insight: Thus, empathy intersects with complexity as it is emerges from the zeitgiest (ideas that groups of people absorb and share over a brief timeframe). This definition is computationally useful for calculating and visualizing empathy around particular causes through social media.
When we can calculate the empathy zeitgeist we will be able to track (quantitatively) the transition from this idea:
USA: We must fight global terrorism with machines, military, and physical defense barriers.
To this idea…
We must fight global terrorism by undermining the misinformed ideas and racist/sexist attitudes that form their foundation.
But we must also apply the empathy zeitgiest lens to ourselves.
Americans don’t work for economic justice around the world, and many USA corporations rely on the world’s poor for their profit margin. This is exploitation, plain and simple, and it plants the seeds that grow into terrorism generations later…